Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD in Greencastle with Garvan Meehan, principal and senior natuical instructors, John Kelly and John O'Mahony. Photo: Clive Wasson
Safety for fishermen at sea took a major step forward yesterday, Friday, with the launch at the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) training college in Greencastle of new high-tech simulator suites that will enable skipper students to pilot and berth a vessel and navigate it through adverse weather conditions.
The simulator and radio suites - recently installed both at the college in Inishowen and its sister college in Castletownbere - are designed to imitate real-life navigational conditions for helm, ship control training and practice, and for vessel routine and distress alert training.
Gale force winds, rain, waves, and even snow conditions can be simulated.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD visited Greencastle to officially launch the new equipment.
He learned that it is currently in use by a cohort of students whom he met and will enable Ireland’s next fishing skippers to hone the skills needed to safely practice vessel navigations, in a series of compromising conditions including major storms.
Imnvestment of €465,000
The state-of-the-art suites now in place at both colleges, represent a government investment of €465,000.
Minister McConalogue said he was greatly impressed with how closely the simulators were able to replicate the real-life conditions that can be faced at sea.
“Every time our fishers set to sea, they potentially face adverse conditions, which they must be prepared for to ensure the safe return of all those on board.
"It was with this in mind that I approved this additional investment in the new simulator in the BIM Training College. With this new facility and training, we are ensuring that our students have access to the highest standards for skippering fishing vessels.
The BIM colleges here at Greencastle, and in Castletownbere, are vital cogs in the seafood and wider marine sector.”
BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said this investment is very welcome and upgrading their equipment to world-class standards allows BIM to provide training to new entrants and those already in the sector to the highest level.
"This will also enable us to develop future navigation simulation courses as legislation progresses,” he said.
Sea Survival Training Unit
This funding is part of a wider capital programme that involves an overall €1.7 million investment in the Greencastle Training College, recently approved by Minister McConalogue including a 12-metre sea survival training pool at Greencastle.
The project, when delivered, will create a cost-effective Maritime Centre of Excellence that provides a modern sea survival training unit for students and instructors, on-site in the National Fisheries College, Greencastle, supporting a safe and professional sea fishing industry.
The new facility will significantly complement the extensive training infrastructure already in place in the Inishowen college including a fire-fighting unit, a fully integrated fishing vessel simulator, vessel dry land trawler deck, engine room, workshop, and seven classrooms.
New legislative changes mean that fishermen in vessels under 15 metres are now required to undertake this safety training at a minimum every five years, and this is now being implemented.
BIM offers these training courses through its colleges and coastal training units.
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